On the 19th October 2016, five thousand women concluded their fifteen-day march at the doorstep of the Israeli Prime Minister in Jerusalem. The march was coordinated by Women Wage Peace, a non-partisan organisation dedicated to ensuring peace between Israel and Palestine. The march took two years of planning, fundraising and awareness campaigns. The Palestinian women who took part in the march were even supported by the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as well as the Authority itself.
These women were far from ordinary; they were a mix of all faiths and backgrounds: Christians, Muslims, Jews – and many had to fight to be there. Some women were unable to give their real names to reporters. One of the women told a Haaretz (Israeli news corporation) that “not everyone in my family agrees. Especially not the men, who don’t want women to express themselves”. This march was huge not just in terms of what it means politically, but also what it means for women’s rights.
Despite all this, major media corporations have taken no notice. Most articles and information about the march remain relatively localised despite the length of time organisers spent fundraising and raising awareness. Moreover, Israeli politicians have taken even less of an interest. One of the movement’s coordinators’, Tammy Yakira, said “We are aware of the difficulty in recruiting politicians to market peace as a brand.”
So why is it that thousands of women, many of which have been oppressed, lost loved ones, and then travelled from the Lebanon border into the heart of Israel, are not being taken notice of? An economist, Hind Khoury spoke at the rally and in her rousing speech stated, “This is women’s’ power at its best”. So why is such a powerful message of peace not even worthy of consideration?
Scepticism of peace has become a prominent problem in Israel, peace itself has become something associated with weakness and naivety. The general consensus is that it is too late for peace now, that there is no way back. These women are not just fighting for peace, they have to rebrand peace as a concept and sell it back to their government and their country; an altogether much harder challenge.
Despite all this, the movement is still very much active, and, if anything, more positive than ever. Yakira when commenting on the lack of political attention said “Even if it doesn’t look that way from the outside, we can see and feel that we have managed to break through various circles.
Leymah Gbowee, a 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, as well as the leader of the women’s politicking that helped to successfully end the Liberian civil war, was a guest of honour. She gave a powerful speech at the rally, a statement worth remembering: “If you cannot see hope, if you cannot see peace, then you are blind – You must reject the narrative that war is the destiny for our children. War is easy, making peace is hard”.
These women have only just begun their movement, and although they have far to go, and many hurdles to overcome, it’s progress nonetheless. The march was a huge landmark for women not only in politics, but women everywhere as an inspiration to break glass ceilings and make their voices heard. It is more than possible that these women may just become prominent figures in the fight for peace between Israel and Palestine for years to come.